Sometimes a game comes along and does so much right, but completely messes up one thing that it ruins the whole experience. That’s the best way I can describe Nitroplus Blasterz: Heroine’s Infinite Duel. It’s a fun, high-octane fighter, in the vein of Marvel vs. Capcom with an all-star female cast of beloved manga characters that’s already been in arcades for some time. But despite its brilliant concept, developer Examu takes an opportunity to build up a strong cast and instead turns everyone into a sex object. I’m not going to pretend I’m an authority on any of the properties for this crossover, but the blatant sexualisation of almost every character turned a fun, rewarding fighter, into an uncomfortable experience.
It’s really unfortunate, because the entire game is actually well made. The hand drawn inspired artwork with a soundtrack that can pump up a football team compliments the frantic, fast paced action on the screen. The game itself was clearly meant for tournament style play with a fight stick. Even the controls use “A” and “B” buttons for references (which took me a few seconds to catch on to when I started playing). But once I got going, it was hard to be disappointed in the gameplay. Everything is really fluid, and each fight’s over-the-top, combo filled chaos brought back memories of old Capcom and SNK arcade fighters of yesteryear. Much like those classic titles, there’s tons of variety with a huge cast of characters, but many of them only work in a supporting role. That’s fine though; the actual fighters you can choose from are diverse enough that you can find someone that fits your style perfectly. My personal favourite was Ouka. Her blitz style mixed with the perfect move set of ranged and close-quarters attacks made me feel like I was a threat at any given time.
That feeling of power dissipated at points during the campaign where the difficulty fluctuated between embarrassingly easy and “I’m sweating because I’m getting destroyed” hard. There was really no in between, and while I always got the better of the computer in the end, I never knew how each fight would go. There is a storyline, but it’s only barely noticeable, and was a flimsy attempt to string together fights. That’s not a bad thing; I highly doubt anyone is looking for some high-class storytelling with a game like this, so it really does its job.
I had a lot of fun playing the game, but there was always a dark cloud looming over my experience. After many fights my child-like character won, she’d strip down to her underwear or show off some lingerie. Or, every time I scrolled through my main menu, the guide’s breasts would bounce like it’s a Dead or Alive game. I guess this is just indicative of a cultural divide between Eastern and Western game philosophy, but I don’t want to bring down an entire portion of the game industry with a blanket statement like that. However, there clearly is a genre archetype that feels outdated and needs to be re-evaluated. But it’s treatment like this that really hurts the public’s perception of our favourite pastime. And what’s worse, it also harms how manga is viewed as well, and it already has enough trouble gaining mainstream acceptance from western audiences.
It’s just a messy situation, and it hampered my overall enjoyment of an otherwise fine fighter. Which is a shame, because this score could be so much higher than it is. Unfortunately, it’s hard to overlook something so blatant that it made me too uncomfortable to play. It takes away from the sheer joy this game brings otherwise. But if you’re into fighters, it’s hard to say to not at least try this game. It’s been in arcades for a few months now, and it translates well onto home consoles. I just wish the characters were taken a little more seriously.